Here are some of the photos we got back from the 2010 Pangea culture festival. Thank you Greg for the photos!
Looking back in the year at our dojo, I would have to say it was a pretty good one – for several reasons:
We increased our “consistent” membership from three members to eight. It’s pretty neat for me to see everyone on the line in their white hakamas doing suburi in sync – very cool! I have a good feeling about this group – everyone seems to be grasping the concepts of iaido and making the art personal for them. That’s one of the great joys for me in teaching, is seeing students start to “get it” and not only progress in their technique, but also in their spirit as well.
Continuing members Paul, Kelly, and Bert were joined by Joey, Molly, Erik, Tyler, and Greg. Welcome all!
We increased our public exposure of the dojo and iaido in general through performing several public demonstrations. We attended or presented at:
If possible, we’ll attend all of these again in 2011 and also will be hosting our own Midwest Kendo Federation sponsored kendo / iaido seminar sometime this summer. That’s going to be big and exciting!
We held our first tameshigiri (test cutting) class. All members of the dojo were able to cut several targets of rolled tatami mats. It was a great learning experience, and I think they could better understand why we stress the things we do about grip, stance, and our swings. I hope to be able to continue this again in 2011.
I personally had a chance to go to Guelph, Ontario in the spring to attend their annual iaido / jodo seminar. It was quite an excellent refresher, and we had an impressive lineup of sensei from all around the world to work with us. Presenting was Chihiro Kishimoto, a hanshi hachidan in iaido and also the chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR) iaido committee. He brought with him, Atsumi Hatakenaka, kyoshi nanadan, and Fumio Tsubaki, kyoshi nanadan. Canadian sensei included Goyo Ohmi, renshi nanadan, Stephen Cruise, renshi nanadan, and Kim Taylor, renshi nanadan. I spent three days from 9 to 5 practicing seitei iaido with the “testing” group, and was able to receive some personal attention and comments from Kishimoto sensei. We learned some good ki-ken-tai-ichi drills that I’ve started my own students on, and a few basic changes to the seitei kata. I got to spend a bit of time with Cruise sensei reviewing some Musoshindenryu, and comparing some of the differences in our styles. It was a great seminar!
Looking forward to 2011 makes me excited for a couple of things.
First, possibly the chance to test for 5dan at either Guelph or the AUSKF summer camp. I know that I have a lot of reviewing to do of my own seitei, but what makes me most nervous is performing my first test in North America. Up to now, I’ve only had experience testing in Japan, so I’m not sure what to expect. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend the summer camp yet, and I’m really looking forward to heading to Cleveland in June for that. Hopefully Yamazaki sensei from Shizuoka will be attending again this year – I’d love to say hi and catch up with him again. Mr. Yamazaki was our Tobu region kind of lead sensei at my former dojo in Numazu, Japan. He and several other high-ranking sensei came to our dojo every month to lead in a practice and give us a review and pointers on seitei iai.
Also, I’m looking forward to hosting our first iaido seminar here in Fargo-Moorhead. I’m working with the MWKF to get some higher ranked sensei in for instruction in iaido and maybe a bit of kendo as well. It will likely be a two day weekend event with some Friday evening kendo keiko mixed in. It would be great to get some national or even international attendees if we can.
I also look forward to seeing some of my own students start to progress to the level where they may be able to attend some of these events, and test for their dan ranks as well. I would really like to see some representation by Moorhead Dojo members at these regional and national events!
It’s going to be an exciting year!
Last class we had our first experience with tameshigiri, or test cutting with a live blade.
We ordered 80 mats with the money we received from the demo we did this fall, and over the last few weeks, we’ve been practicing the different “cuts” used in tameshigiri. During our breaks, we rolled the targets from the mats – mostly single mats, along with one double-mat target for each member to try. We had to soak them in water for over 24 hours, and then let them drip dry for another 6 or so. It was a lot of work in preparation, but it made for a good cutting session.
One of the things we learned is that we need to cut the same as we do in our iaido class. The movement of the kissaki through the air and the slicing motion of the blade is what cuts the mat, not strength. Tenouchi and using hara in our cut is very important as well.
Members of all experience levels were able to cut successfully, and I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction as each of the members made at least one perfect cut.
Student Joey put together a holiday greetings video with some of our cuts. It’s pretty funny, and you can see it below.
We’ll be putting more links up with everyone’s favorite cuts.
Good work everyone!
Moorhead Dojo News
I hope this newsletter finds you warm and comfy and ready to enjoy the Christmas holiday.
This one is of a very unique style – Yagyu Shinkage ryu. Kenjutsu, unlike iaido, starts with the sword (or in this case bokuto) out of the saya. The techniques are usually done in pairs, and involve strikes and counter-strikes at full speed and intensity.
Here’s another kendo favorite. This fellow in white is an 82 year old 9 dan. He goes up against a couple of 7 and 8 dans. Pretty amazing!
Here’s a good find that was referenced in Kendo World. Note the experience and intensity of the first three that go against the sensei, and then note the change that’s evident once that sensei goes against someone who’s also very experienced. The new sensei enters around 6:45.
I’d like to thank everyone that came by the booth and said hello on Saturday at the festival. We gave out about 135 passport (Japan) stickers to people, and spoke with many more. I’m not sure the final numbers for festival attendance, but there was a pretty steady stream of people all day.
A very special thank you and “otsukaresamadeshita” goes to Bert, Joey, Erik, and Molly for participating in the demonstration and helping out at the booth. I really appreciate your dedication and attendance! Performing your kata in front of other people can be very nerve-wracking, and you all did an excellent job!
I don’t think we scared too many people, though we did get a few “wide” eyes from the girls in the front row as we performed.
Several people submitted their names, and we gave away five coupons for a month’s free lesson, and three t-shirts. I’ll be contacting the t-shirt and lesson winners shortly.
Bert and I are researching places to get mats for tameshigiri. We’ll be trying that for the first time here just as soon as we can get a decent price and the mats ordered. Once the mats are here, we’ll need to soak them for a couple of days in some water. The mats, when rolled, are between 3 and 4 feet long, and we’ll need something to completely submerge them in. Do any of the members have a 55 gal drum or available bath tub they wouldn’t mind using for this purpose? Once the mats have soaked for about 2 days, we’ll let them drip for another day before cutting. They should be good and saturated, but not dripping wet.
Again, safety is first, so we’ll be practicing the swings and techniques in practices prior to the event. Should be a lot of fun! I had previously posted some Youtube links on the blog. Check them out for examples of tameshigiri.
We’ve gotten a few new faces the last few months. Welcome to Tyler, Josh, Russell, and Gary. We’re glad to have you join us!
That’s about it, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Membership is important. By that, I mean not only becoming a member of a dojo to practice and study with an actual sensei, but also joining your regional (and national) martial arts associations.
I know the first place I’d look to see if there was anybody qualified to teach kendo or iaido would be the All US Kendo Federation web site. There’s a comprehensive list of dojo by region in there along with the contact information. There are also links to the regional sites as well. Our dojo is a member of the Midwest Kendo Federation. By going through these associations, you are guaranteed to receive quality instruction from a legitimate sensei.
Another option if you are unable to attend a dojo, would be to contact the closest dojo’s head instructor and inquire about private lessons, or possibly meeting at a midpoint somewhere on a weekly basis. It may be possible that an instructor would come halfway if there were a guaranteed number of students available to teach. Just a thought.
I encourage anyone interested in studying martial arts to go and shop around for dojo. Not all are the same – and not all instructors are the same or even the best qualified to teach. It seems in some systems that all you need is a “black belt” to open your own school. I wouldn’t settle for that, and serious practitioners shouldn’t either. Getting your black belt means simply that you’ve put in enough time to begin seriously studying.
Good luck, and remember membership IS important.